Responding to the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, said:
‘The events of the last two years have taken a significant and enduring toll on the nation’s health. COVID-19 has further widened the health gap between the wealthiest and the poorest, who can on average expect to live shorter, less healthy lives. Today’s announcement shows that the government has yet to fully grasp the pandemic’s stark lesson that health and wealth are fundamentally intertwined. Despite the measures set out today, household incomes are set to fall by 2.2% in real terms in the coming year.
‘The pandemic has stretched the financial resilience of many families to its limit. Many have run down their savings or increased debts to cope with the impact of COVID-19 and measures to contain it. And there is no sign that there will be any let up with CPI inflation set to peak at 8.7% at the end of the year. This continuing rise in cost of living will force increasing numbers to choose between essentials that are vital to living healthy lives – such as housing, heating, and food – or being driven into problem debt.
‘A government that truly valued the nation’s health would have gone further today to protect the most vulnerable families from this latest economic shock. The increase to National Insurance thresholds is significant but fails to target the poorest households. There has been no action on benefits, while the additional £500m for the Household Support Fund falls well short of what is needed. Higher inflation will also erode planned spending on public services which support health. The Government should be investing more to protect people in the here-and-now, as well as building greater resilience against future threats to our health.’
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